North American Western Dressage has recently completed and published the Official Rulebook and the NAWD Official Western Dressage Tests. Now you might ask, “What is ‘Western Dressage’?” This developing discipline is very exciting to many riders, trainers, breeders and exhibitors who choose horses of all breeds as our partners, and who, for various reasons, prefer to sit in stock type saddles. Good dressage training benefits any horse/rider combination in any discipline and western dressage will open doors for education and increased understanding of the classical training previously closed to many. North American Western Dressage is dedicated to finding common ground between the two disciplines, educating riders from all backgrounds, and to making dressage concepts accessible to western riders without minimizing the importance of the training pyramid nor sacrificing the principles that are fundamental to classical dressage. It is the hope of the organization that western dressage continues to develop into a unique discipline in this country and around the world, one that is distinct from dressage and differentiated from other western riding styles.
North American Western Dressage (NAWD) was conceived in 2010 to answer the desire for a venue in which western riders could ride, train and even show horses traditionally thought of as “western horses” but who perform in the manner of a classically trained dressage horse. Western and English riders have many differences, but all want to build a better relationship with their horses.
Dressage training, with its focus on relaxation, rhythm, balance, connection, suppleness and collection, is one avenue via which riders can improve communication with their horses.
Bringing the idea of western dressage to life has been a process. There were and continue to be many questions to answer. The first of these, “What is Western Dressage?” is the most important as it provides the foundation from which all other points of development arise. How should this question be tackled?
Should western saddles be put on dressage horses? Probably not.
Should western pleasure horses be put in dressage saddles? Certainly not!
Should western trained horses be put in the dressage arena and ride dressage figures? The result is an 11 minute walk-trot test with no gymnastic benefit and little resemblance to classical dressage.
Should an attempt be made to blend these seemingly different disciplines into one new thing? This will certainly be the most challenging solution to the problem of defining western dressage.
How can the discipline stay true to either foundation, and if one is chosen, which one? Good horsemanship is good horsemanship through the centuries and around the world… surely common ground can be found!
Who will teach and coach Western Dressage riders? Industry professionals, of course, but only trainers and instructors who demonstrate a clear grasp of both classical dressage training principles and familiarity with western breeds and disciplines are actually qualified to do so.